By Sibel Ozer
I feel like a client who doesn’t know where to start her session following a most eventful week…
A lot happened in my life and the world since I last wrote, so I’ll begin where I left off. The last sentence of my last blog almost a year ago was:
“Oh, the discoveries that await!,” referring to the permanent walking labyrinth I was hoping to create the coming spring. Boy, did that turn out to be prophetic!
I did create the labyrinth, last spring, and have been walking it, if not daily, regularly. It is one of my proudest creations because I was so convinced initially that I couldn’t do it.
My studio looks out on the space the labyrinth now occupies, and for the longest time, I was aware that a labyrinth wanted to be built there. It was one of those things I was aware didn’t come from my personhood, but it was a call my psyche was responding to. It is akin to when I am painting and the shape of a turtle emerges from among the waves as opposed to me deciding I want to paint a turtle from the onset.
Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, the initial response of my inner critic was “Oh, but you can’t! — too hard, you’re not smart enough, strong enough, etc…” followed by the emotion of fear and intimidation. And, if I allowed it, the action of inaction.
It didn’t seem like a big deal to order a book titled The Way of the Labyrinth (H. Curry), which turned out to be the first step in resisting the negative voice of my inner critic. I took the book with me to NYC and dared to create a finger labyrinth from clay during an art workshop. A small one! Then I decided I could tackle a bigger one with mosaics and proceeded to create two pieces, acquainting myself with the process further while challenging the internal voice of “You can’t.” Next came the snow labyrinth, which I wrote about last year. When the weather was finally warm enough, I went out and gathered fallen twigs to sketch the outline of the labyrinth in my yard. It was so easy at that point I couldn’t believe it ever appeared to be such a challenge.
I proceeded to find a rock shop, collect midsize river rocks by hand (about 1.5 tons of them), rented a truck to get them home, and used a wheelbarrow to carry them from the driveway to the place of the labyrinth. This was a workout, I admit, but certainly within anyone’s capabilities if we are patient and pace ourselves. Or get help if needed. My son helped me handpick the rocks which took about half a day. At one point, I was throwing back the small and large rocks he was putting in the truck, explaining I want them to be roughly the same size, and he proceeded to inform me that I was crazy (obsessive, to be specific). He took a break, came back and we managed to laugh at our sweaty selves and have a bit of a bonding over the whole ordeal. He wasn’t going to help me any further, but that was fine.
The place of the labyrinth between the trees became sacred space the moment the rocks were laid; I had made it so by setting it aside, by how I was treating it. My husband helped me create an entryway later using fallen tree trunks, which we are hoping will be covered by wisteria in a few years.
The walking of the labyrinth turned into a prayer walk where I not only practice mindfulness but commune with the sacred and the mysterious in my own personal way. I walk to the center and then out, sometimes more than once, and in doing so find myself arriving at my own center, my own place of balance and wisdom.
And my balance has been challenged more then a few times this past year.
I will not go into the changes at the political level, both in Turkey and here in the U.S., suffice to say that they have not been uplifting.
I thought we would lose my father in the spring, and I thought about him throughout his transition walking the labyrinth. He passed at the end of August and I communed with his spirit in my grieving again as I kept on walking. I had some physical changes going on, and it was hard to distinguish what was grief related, what was peri-menopausal, what just part of the female experience, and so on. I walked, listening to my body, and had the sense to get that mammogram taken care of that had been sitting on my desk for literally years! I was diagnosed with early stage breast cancer and had surgery the day before the election.
I walked the labyrinth post-surgery finding my way through the pain and to my new center. I am convinced it helped my healing, whether it was the fresh air, the actual walking, or the embracing of an attitude of ongoing listening and learning…
What a gift cancer has turned out to be, though, of course, I wouldn’t wish it on anyone or won’t claim it’s been easy or painless. I can say that, for me, personally, more good has come out of it than bad, largely because I’ve been lucky — early diagnosis, no spreading, good doctors, great support, etc.
What is good is that I am awake in a way I wouldn’t be if life hadn’t shattered my sense of safety and specialness, my sense that time is endless. What is positive is that I’m taking care of myself with a degree of deeper love and caring then before, that I am creating in a way I haven’t before, that I feel a sense of purpose and urgency that is more focused than before.
I continue to walk the labyrinth, so that I don’t forget to be in relationship with the sentient forces around me: Spirit, the trees, plants, the small and big animals that visit our backyard, the thought seeds that whisper their ideas for anyone who will embrace them.
The discoveries have been many and will continue as long as I live, alive; because sometimes we slip into “dead” mode, automated, bogged down, with a veil of gloom and boredom, with a buying in to the “can’t” as opposed to resisting it. That, too, is part of the cycle of life, of course. And it’s less about not ever losing our sense of awake aliveness, but more of a commitment to practices that help us notice when this happens.
What do you do to find your center? Where and how do you manage to commune with nature, images, your psyche, life in general?